Preventing Cat-astrophic Weight Gain
PetSmart Nick Saint-Erne, DVM
Obesity in cats is becoming an ever-increasing problem as cats become more popular pets. Better quality diets such as premium advanced nutrition foods, while good for the overall health of your cat, can lead to obesity if the cat is an overeater. And while living indoors keeps your cat safe from loss, injury and disease, they may not be getting as much exercise as they need.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of extra weight being added to your pet. Overweight cats are prone to liver disease, diabetes, joint problems and shortened life spans.
So what can be done to prevent the weight gain and associated problems?
Know What, When They Eat
The first thing to look at is your cat's diet. These finicky pets have specific dietary needs that are quite different from dogs. They should be fed a quality high-protein cat food, either dry, canned or mixed depending on the cat's preference.
Most people leave dry food out all the time, especially in multi-cat households. This is acceptable if the cats are not overweight, but may be the ultimate cause of the obesity. Watch how much each cat eats to prevent "hogging." If they are gaining excess weight, then the food should be measured out for each cat at intervals three to four times a day. Frequent small meals are better than one or two large meals per day. Read the food package label for the amount to feed each cat, based on his or her age and nutritional needs. This is usually the maximum amount to feed; your pet may need less.
Avoid Crash Diets
There are special diets to help control your cat's weight, and lose weight safely - use them if your cat is overweight. It is important that weight loss in cats is gradual.
Unlike dogs, if cats are overweight they accumulate lipids in their liver. If they suddenly go without eating, such as from illnesses or injuries, or are given too little food, they go into a crisis called hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, which can be fatal. If your cat is not eating, or vomits regularly, be sure to consult with your veterinarian who can check for this serious condition. Annual veterinary visits are a good idea in any case, and your veterinarian will weigh your cat and advise you as to the proper weight for its particular breed and age. Your veterinarian can also test for hormonal imbalances such as diabetes. Be sure to keep your cats current on all preventative vaccinations and medications, as well.
Try Kitty Calisthenics
Playing together with your cat is a lot of fun, and will increase physical activity, keeping the weight down. Rolling toys are good for some cats, who will chase them around the floor. Many cats will chase laser pen spots, just be careful to not shine it in their eyes. Toys on strings can be manipulated so the cat will frantically chase them. Be sure to keep string toys away from cats when not playing - the cat may ingest the string when unattended, causing intestinal obstructions.
Feeding the correct amount of a proper advanced nutrition cat food, playing with your cat regularly to increase activity and annual veterinary checkups to monitor your cat's health are the keys for helping your cat have a long and happy life with you.
For more than two decades, Dr. Nick has cared for pets and helped educate pet parents on how to keep their pets healthy and happy throughout their lifetime. Currently, he supervises the care of the thousands of small mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish sold in PetSmart stores. Through our exclusive Vet Assured program, PetSmart's veterinarians also oversee the quality of care that PetSmart pets receive, even before they reach our stores. Dr. Nick lives with a Shiba Inu dog, two cats, fish, lizards, hamsters, an outdoor koi pond that also is home to many water turtles and Mandarin ducks and many turtles and tortoises who roam the backyard.